THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. OPINIONS ARE MY OWN.
Growing up, counting down the days until Christmas with a traditional German Advent Calendar was as natural as brushing teeth before going to bed. It was just part of it. Something we always had in our home and in many ways it was the highlight of the Christmas season. Opening a little numbered door every day for 24 days just meant Christmas was that much closer. It was the anticipation and the pure joy of finding a little prize behind each and every single door and in the end Santa Claus or der Weihnachtsmann would come and we would get even more presents.
Some years the calendars were quite simple – a double thick cardboard with a Christmas scene and pictures behind each door, other years they were more elaborate like German chocolate advent calendars with chocolates behind doors or even ones with toys in them.
It didn’t really matter what kind of calendar we had (even though the chocolate ones were and still are my favorite), it just meant every day in December was special. Every single day held a surprise and created a special memory. I still remember that even during my high school years, many of my teachers had a chocolate-filled calendar in their classrooms and would sometimes reward a student by letting them open a door and take out a shaped chocolate piece.
Advent calendars have been around since the early 1900s. Gerhard Lang is widely considered the inventor of the first printed advent calendar. Lang, just like other little kids, was very excited for Christmas to come and to help make his waiting a little easier, his mother constructed a set of 24 boxes and filled each one with a piece of Lebkuchen or gingerbread. He was allowed to open one box and eat a cookie every day leading up to Christmas. Fast forward a few years, inspired by the one his mother had made for him, he began to print the first advent calendar featuring 24 colored pictures attached to a piece of cardboard. In the 1920s, he modified his calendars to include the little doors that have now become a staple! Chocolate calendars have only been around since the late 50s.
Nowadays advent calendars are everywhere, even in the US. The German chocolate advent calendars are still the most common ones (my local grocery store even carries them in several different designs and includes peanut and tree nut free versions), but I have also seen toy calendars featuring, for example, Legos and Playmobil geared towards all different kind of age groups at Walmart and Target stores in recent years.
But I think in the end no matter what kind gets chosen, I have come to learn that all calendars are a great way to track the time until Christmas and even teach preschoolers all about numbers and being patient in a sweet way.